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The thyroid just might be the most under-appreciated organ in the human body. This land, located near the throat at the top of the trachea, is the regulator for much of the body’s metabolism. And among the many things it affects is the ability to become pregnant.
The thyroid’s job is to make hormones, called Thyroid Stimulating Hormones (TSH), which control several important bodily functions, such as helping us metabolize food into energy. When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones, a condition called hypothyroidism develops, and that can cause a lot of problems. One of those problems is that it can keep you from becoming pregnant.
Your thyroid level plays several important roles in conception. At the very least, a healthy thyroid helps keep your body functioning properly so you can enter into pregnancy with a good start. But an under-performing thyroid can disrupt menstrual cycles. Your ovulation periods may not occur as frequently or regularly as normal, thus reducing the time when you can get pregnant. Hypothyroidism can also affect the duration of cycles, making them longer or shorter than normal. A prolonged cycle can cause excessive bleeding, leading to serious problems like anemia. It also brings on fatigue, which, in turn, can affect the desire for sexual intercourse.
Yes. Hypothyroidism can interfere with the release of the egg from the ovaries to the uterus, where it travels to be fertilized; it can also drop body temperature sufficiently, which can hinder ovulation. Further, low thyroid levels may affect proper implantation of the egg into the uterus, which can impair, or even prevent, correct fetal development, possibly leading to abnormal cell division during the early stages of pregnancy. So while it’s technically possible to conceive with an under-active thyroid, it’s not as likely, and the health of the mother and fetus could be compromised as well.
Fortunately, the solution to hypothyroidism is usually simple. Since the body can’t produce enough TSH, it has to be provided from another source. Most commonly, patients with low thyroid levels are given a prescription medication called Synthroid (Levothyroxine is the generic version), which makes the thyroid hormone artificially. At your doctor’s discretion, supplementation with iodine, selenium, or certain vitamins may be used to bolster your thyroid production. And you may be asked to limit certain foods that interfere with thyroid medication. In most cases, thyroid therapy will be necessary throughout life, but once a proper dosage has been established, it’s simply a matter of taking a pill every day.
In general, a healthy thyroid level is the same for a woman trying to become pregnant as it is for any other adult female, although age makes a slight difference, and your level may vary once you become pregnant. A simple blood test can reveal your current level of TSH. While there is some minor difference of opinion, it is generally held that for women under 30, the normal range of TSH is approximately .50 to 4.50 mU/L; for women over the age of 30, it’s a little lower, around 4 to 4.1 mU/L. Your blood test may also show results for two specific thyroid hormones: T4 (thyroxine), which is produced by your pituitary gland, and T3, (triiodothyronine) which is converted into TSH; these values may give your doctor insight into your overall thyroid health.
The answer to this question is yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. In fact, it’s a risk that could be easily avoided, because any health condition of the mother can potentially affect fetal development. And it’s also possible that the baby will be born with too little TSH—not a good way to start life. Hypothyroidism also tends to slow the mother’s metabolism, which causes weight gain, which can raise the mother’s blood pressure or cause additional discomfort during pregnancy. Even more serious, insufficient levels of TSH can lead to premature birth, miscarriages, and other perils for mother and for child. All in all, it’s advisable to start monitoring your TSH when you start trying to get pregnant, and then periodically throughout the term and afterwards.
Low thyroid is just one of the things you have to watch for if you’re planning on having a baby. Let the Fertility Center of Mexico get you started on a healthy pregnancy. Our fertility specialists are the experts in a full range of obstetrics and gynecology, including IVF in Mexico, embryo freezing, intrauterine insemination, and male reproductive health as well. Located in beautiful Tijuana, just minutes away from San Diego, we’re here to help.
Gynecology, Obstetrics and Biology of Human Reproduction Surgeon at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara, specialist Biologist of Human Reproduction by the Mexican Institute of Infertility.
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